Born in Scotland in 1979, John Pumphrey read German and Russian at Oxford University (1998-2002), where he was a scholar at St. Edmund Hall. He has a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in Modern Languages, and before taking up singing full time was a school teacher for several years and Head of German at Winchester College in Hampshire.
He studied singing on a full scholarship at the Alexander Gibson Opera School at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (2007-2009), where his main teacher was Stephen Robertson, and at the Flanders Opera Studio in Belgium (2009-2010). From 2010 - 2012 he was a member of the Opera Studio program at the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg.
Operatic roles he has performed include: Ferrando, Cosi fan Tutte, Truffaldino, For the Love of Three Oranges, Brighella, Ariadne auf Naxos (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama), Gobin, Prunier La Rondine (British Youth Opera, Prunier in cover cast), Oronte, Alcina (Flanders Opera Studio), Spoletta, Tosca (Wedmore Opera), Ernesto, Don Pasquale, Nadir, Ali Baba et les Quarante Voleurs by Luigi Cherubini, the Marquis de Carabas in Le Chat Botté by César Cui, Gravedigger, Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas , Don Eusebio in Rossini’s L’Occasione fa il Ladro, a Valet and a Student in Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer, and a Majordomo in Der Rosenkavalier, Pasek in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Spoletta in Tosca(Opéra National du Rhin).
As a concert singer while at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama John was a winner of the Tony and Tania Webster Prize for Russian song and the Hugh Robertson Award for Scots Song. He was a soloist in Vaughan-Williams Serenade to Music at the BBC Proms in 2010 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles. He has sung the tenor roles in a number of oratorios, including Handel’s Messiah and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with choral societies in the UK. He has a broad repertoire of art song in various languages, and sang in a thanksgiving service for the life of Robert Burns broadcast worldwide from Glasgow Cathedral as part of the Homecoming Celebrations in 2009. In October 2013 he won the Gabriel Fauré-Déodat de Séverac prize at the Concours International d'Interprétation de la Mélodie Française in Toulouse.
He has participated in masterclasses with Sir Thomas Allen, Sarah Walker, Christoph Prégardien, Thomas Quasthoff, Ian Storey, Françoise Pollet, Malcolm Martineau, Roger Vignoles and Graham Johnson. He is a Samling Scholar. His studies in Scotland and Belgium were generously supported by the Sir James Caird Trust, the Katherine Trust, the William Barry Trust, the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust and the Rooibus Foundation.